www.whyville.net Jun 19, 2005 Weekly Issue

Science Writer

A Woman of Science

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In social studies class the other day, my teacher gave a speech on the great women in history. This inspired me to write an article on one of the women he talked about.

After class, I asked him more about her. Later that day, I went to my science teacher, who told me everything else I needed to know.

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland, on November 7, 1867. When she was old enough, she moved to France. There she went to Sorbonne University and graduated with top honors, becoming the first woman to teach at the school. While there, she met Pierre Curie, also an instructor and a brilliant scientist. Later, they were married.

Both Marie and Pierre were interested in chemistry. Marie was very interested in helping mankind. When Henri Becquerel put some otherwise unusual rocks and photographic plates (like film negatives) in a drawer only to find that the photos came out splotchy, he told the Curies, and they became very curious -- just like any good Whyvillian would.

In their investigation of these rocks, Marie and Pierre discovered radioactivity. Marie came up with the word radioactivity herself. The couple kept studying this phenomenon, discovering many properties of various materials and how they intereact with radiation.

The Curies found a leaky wooden shed and used that as their workplace. Even though it was freezing there while it was winter, Marie said, "One of our pleasures was to enter our workshop at night; then, all around us, we would see the luminous silhouettes of the beakers and capsules that contained our products."

In their workshop, they studied uranium, a very radioactive material. While they were studying uranium they discovered radium, and later discovered polonium. Polonium was named by Marie after her home country, Poland. In 1903, Marie and Pierre got a Nobel Prize along with Becquerel for their contributions to the field of radiology.

Three years after winning the Prize, Marie's beloved Pierre died in a carriage accident. She was left alone with her two daughters, Irene and Eve. Marie kept on working with radioactivity and discovered how to isolate radium from pitchblend. She got a second Nobel Prize for this, in 1911, and she became the first person ever to win a Nobel Prize in two different fields. (Only one other person has done so since then.)

In July of 1934, when she was 66 years old, Marie Curie died of leukemia.

For additional information, start at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Sklodowska-Curie

You can also check out the Nobel Prize's website: http://nobelprize.org/physics/articles/curie/


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